By GARRY RAYNO, Distant Dome
The year 2022 is nearly over but for a few more weeks, Christmas, the winter solstice and New Year’s Eve.
2022 was an election year and that often brings out the worst in politicians, political hacks and supporters or opposers.
Despite today’s politics of demonization, many good people who practiced the art of the possible (politics) passed this year and will be missed for what they accomplished for their fellow citizens, their communities and their state.
Judy Reardon of Manchester died too soon last week after a long illness.
She will mostly be remembered for her work with Jeanne Shaheen, when she was a state Senator, Governor or US Senator.
Reardon used to play the bad cop to Shaheen’s good cop, holding a number of positions for the Madbury resident and one of the state’s most successful Democratic politicians.
Judy was always Shaheen’s protector and if you did something that did not put Shaheen in the best light, you would see Judy at the door wanting to “talk.”
Judy was witty, viciously funny, and one of the smartest people in the State House, often thinking two or three steps ahead of everyone else, much like Larry Bird on a basketball court.
Reardon worked on the ill-fated gubernatorial campaigns of Paul McEachern of Portsmouth.
I first met Judy when she was with a young attorney running for Congress in the 1st District around Rochester introducing him to people she knew. Joe Keefe did not come close to beating Republican incumbent Bob Smith, but he would be the state Democratic Party’s chair for several years a few years later.
The last time I spent much time with Judy was during the Northern Pass hearings when she was fighting the project to build a transmission line from the Canadian border to Deerfield.
We had some good conversations and occasionally talked about Northern Pass.
Doctor and former state Sen. James Squires, was a surgeon who with three other doctors established the first HMO in New Hampshire, Matthew Thornton. The organization was eventually sold to Anthem with the proceeds helping to create the Endowment for Health, where Squires served as founding president.
He was a state Senator for two terms during the chaos as the legislature grappled to find a funding solution to the Claremont education lawsuit, with the initial fight being expanded gambling or an income tax.
Eventually a hodgepodge of tax increases and a statewide property tax were adopted as the solution.
Squires was a proponent of the income tax as a way of settling the suit and ran for Governor in 2000 in the Republican primary touting the proposal.
Jim did not win the primary, former U.S. and state senator Gordon Humphrey did, but he lost to Shaheen.
Squires was born in New London where his father taught at Colby Junior College and was a state representative. His father also wrote a history of the town.
Although Jim lived in Hollis since 1971, he frequently returned to his hometown for the New London Boys Club meetings every summer and purchased the old train station in Potter’s Place and turned it over to Andover Historical Society when it appeared the station would be torn down.
Squires was a kind, gentle man who never disparaged anyone, unlike today’s politicians.
Raymond Wieczorek was the longtime mayor of Manchester, a Congressional candidate and a longtime Executive Councilor representing the 4th District, which includes the Queen City.
Wieczorek will forever be remembered as the city’s mayor who pushed for what is now the SNHU (Southern New Hampshire University) Arena and the area in front of the complex is named Raymond Wieczorek Place.
The five-term mayor also worked to redevelop the old mill buildings along the Merrimack River — The Millyard — into a bustling area of restaurants, businesses, corporate headquarters, and entertainment.
Wieczorek’s other accomplishment was overseeing the new Manchester Airport Terminal and resulting infrastructure, making it at one time a viable alternative to Boston’s Logan Airport.
The airport access road is named the Raymond Wieczorek Drive.
He was not the flashiest politician, but he produced results with little rancor or dramatics.
As mayor he could be a tough negotiator as the police union learned and made some decisions like using new-found education funding from the Claremont lawsuit to reduce property taxes, which upset educators who felt the money should be spent on the city’s public education system.
But he survived 10 years as mayor, which these days is a lifetime.
Katherine Rogers was born in Concord and lived in the city the rest of her life, which was dedicated to politics and public service.
She was a longtime political consultant working with many Democratic politicians including Hugh Gallen, John Durkin, and the presidential campaigns of Jimmy Carter, Fritz Mondale, Mike Dukakis and many more including Corey Booker in the last presidential primary.
She also served as Merrimack County Attorney for one term, as a Merrimack County Commissioner for five terms, and many terms in the New Hampshire House and on the Concord City Council.
In her last years in the House, Rogers served on the Finance Committee where she used her skills to advocate for those needing social services, mental health treatment, and for juvenile justice.
She was a pragmatist who tenaciously worked both sides of the aisle on issues like access to firearms and protections for animals.
And Kathi was a dog person, hosting an annual dog picnic for her dog and her friends’ puppies at her home on Concord Heights.
She along with other Democratic House members sued Speaker Sherman Packard seeking remote access to the House sessions because of compromised immune systems at the beginning of the last session.
She died before the suit was settled. The Democrats lost and appealed it to the US Supreme Court.
Renny Cushing of Hampton, was elected the Democratic Minority Leader his last term in the House, and was the lead plaintiff in the suit seeking remote access as he was being treated for cancer as was Rogers.
The longtime activist was a founding member of the Clamshell Alliance opposed to the Seabrook nuclear power plant pushed by former Gov. Meldrim Thomson.
Renny’s father was murdered by an off-duty Hampton police officer who knocked at the door at his family’s home and shot him twice in front of his wife.
Instead of seeking revenge, Renny became an advocate for repealing the state’s death penalty.
He worked tirelessly on the issue only to see it end in failure, one time making it through the legislature only to have Shaheen veto it when she was governor.
The repeal passed the Legislature in 2018 again, but was vetoed by Gov. Chris Sununu.
It was almost deja vu all over again in 2019, but this time the House and Senate overrode Sununu’s veto and the death penalty was abolished in New Hampshire.
Cushing was also an advocate for legalizing marijuana and commuting sentences for those convicted of possession of a small amount, for same sex marriage, and for many other progressive causes he championed for the people of New Hampshire.
He died from cancer and complications from COVID-19, a virus he had hoped to avoid with the lawsuit against the House Speaker.
These five people’s public service impacted the state of New Hampshire in many ways. Although they belonged to competing parties, they had the best interest of the people and the state in their work, and they will be missed.
Garry Rayno may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.